Hi friends! Chrissie here. I’m excited to pass the mic over to someone in our community, Athena Pandolf the Executive Director of Natick Center Cultural District in Massachusetts. She and her team have given their community an artistic avenue to come together and make sense of a world stumbling through a pandemic. They’ve demonstrated that LOVE is not a singular experience, but it is a part of ALL of us.
Athena, take it away….
There are defining moments in our lives that shift our existing reality. These moments permeate swiftly, challenging us to face our deepest fears and at times our very existence. Defining moments can be coupled with outside circumstances or even tragic events that drastically, sometimes violently, change our present outlook or world. These events not only take place within individual lives but also occur within communities. These life happenings sometimes make one want to retreat into themselves but sometimes they serve as fertile ground for love to take over the darkness.
As the director of a nonprofit that supports local businesses and artists, our mission is to encourage commerce, creativity, and community within our geographical sphere. In a small town, a devastating fire or a worldwide pandemic has immediate consequences and serves as a defining moment. Fear is sometimes the immediate reaction, as people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake but the events can also give birth to beautiful acts of love. As each breath brings much-needed oxygen to our bodies so it is that each small act of love gathers momentum which can carry us through life’s challenges the likes of which we’ve never experienced before.
The LOVE 01760 project was born from a conversation and grew until it was combined with camaraderie and is giving purpose to a town struggling to make sense of the world stumbling through a pandemic.
The LOVE 01760 group consists of women who vary in age and have different strengths and styles. It is a wonderful thing when women come together to engage a community without ego, or agenda but just the pure dedication to make a difference. The common denominator for being involved was love for our community, that was the only requirement. After a quick video call, the LOVE 01760 project was outlined, and plans were put into place. Each left with their chosen tasks and excited to bring this idea to fruition. We didn’t know at the time how many lives it would touch.
We asked people to design two halves of one heart at home with the promise of joining the heart halves together in a future public art project when we were free to leave our dwellings. Our goal was for those at home to use what they had on hand and print out a heart, design one side of the heart, and share with a family member or (safely) with a neighbor to decorate the other half. We asked them to drop off their completed hearts when finished.
The varied designs began appearing through a mail slot at a local artists' studio. Each heart a kaleidoscope of human stories, all distinctively different. Some vibrantly painted, some thoughtfully drawn, some created as bright collages or stamps, some conveying words of encouragement and some speaking without words. Each was a hand-crafted message of uniqueness and love created by many hands of all ages. Seeing them being displayed on the Facebook page made our hearts ecstatic and the creativity keeps coming!
The movement of LOVE 01760 continued to grow with a local business that reached out wondering how they could contribute. They generously created a website offering T-shirts for purchase displaying the LOVE 01760 logo. It was decided that the proceeds from the t-shirt sales would go to our local community nonprofit who provides much-needed resources to others. This, we felt, was the foundational soul of this project. This project was created to help us weather the current health crisis but overflowed into helping others struggling within our community.
Hearing about this project someone asked if whole hearts could be created as a separate project and sent to a nursing home in town being ravaged by deaths from an invisible virus. These hearts brought good tidings on paper like an ember of hope in the darkness. These pieces of art at the entrance of the facility convey a simple but powerful message. “We are with you. You are in our thoughts and we honor your life-saving work.”
The LOVE 01760 project is just beginning, but it is taken hold of our hearts as if it has always been a part of us. And it has. It is a part of ALL of us. LOVE is always present.
When I think back to working with these amazing ladies previously but on other projects, I see the powerful identity we possess as a community. It is something visitors comment on and sense when they take a walk around our town center. In my own heart, it is something I have come to deeply appreciate as the place where I live and work. The grand sense that something larger than us is the driving force behind all we do has been voiced by others too. My heart swells with gladness when I think of the outpouring of care and concern, we witnessed when a fire destroyed many local businesses last June. How the community stood with them and supported the business owners and gave them hope. I feel the ancestors of our town guiding us as we are continuing the fulfillment of their prayers offered up many years ago.
I could relay the numbers of followers on our social media page but those are irrelevant to love. The hearts themselves speak the language of love in visual ways and far more powerfully than anything electronic could. The beauty of each piece sends an individual and magnificently distinctive message of LOVE. Through these darkest of times, our hearts have joined creating a beacon of illuminating warmth in our town called LOVE 01760.
“Socially apart but united together in Love” is what these crafted hearts convey. Love for one another, love for our community, and love for the world. That is why the LOVE 01760 project was created and why every zip code has the opportunity to become a harbor of love.
We are still on our journey and if you’d enjoy seeing the community creations please visit us and remember to give LOVE all the credit for everything you see.
Athena and the LOVE 01760 community
P.S. If you'd like to share your first-hand story about how you’ve experienced LOVE in your community. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more. <3, Chrissie
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